The Mystery of Wamelep

At the time of the 1879 Census, my Great-Great Grandmother, Lucia Dewitt was 11 years old and living near Charlotte, Michigan with her family.  One member of whom, according to the census taker, was a two month old boy named Wamelep Dewitt.

No one else in the family has any really unusual names like, um, Wamelep.

But, weirdly enough, on the same Census page as the Dewitt family are the Parsons, who have a two month old son, also named Wamelep.

According to, the only other Wamelep in the history of America was a 4 month old black kid in Virginia in 1900. None of these kids seemed to reach adulthood being named Wamelep.

It seems like if “Wamelep” were just a toss-away name for a kid who hadn’t been given a real name yet, there’d be more than just three of them.   I looked it up on both Yahoo and Google and got nowhere.

Folks, I’m turning to you. What is Wamelep and why would two infants the same age in the same town at the same time have it, but no one else for another twenty years?

14 thoughts on “The Mystery of Wamelep

  1. Are you working from a manuscript page or a transcription? If you have the mss, can you post or send me a copy so I can get a look at the word?

    Here’s my hunch. In the mid-1870s, Sir Walter Scott’s novels were very popular and ladies circulated them in towns/book clubs. I am guessing that what you are seeing is a very
    sloppily written and possibly misspelled Waverley.

  2. I love that when you say that Google got you nowhere, my first response is to google the word. Like I have some special portal into the Secret Search Results. Heh.

    Here’s hoping that turning off ‘safe search’ doesn’t bring any extra results…

  3. Defenestrated, I can’t laugh, because my first thought was “I have to remember to Google this at work.” As if “work” is somehow different than “home”

    Bridgett, I just went to look and I’m embarrassed to admit that both white Wameleps were girls, not boys, as I had earlier indicated. And I’m almost positive that, by the next Census, my Wamelep was “Amy.”

    I don’t know how long the link will last but you can view the census page here.

  4. Of course! “Work Google” could be like the “business class” search engine. Or something.

    Unfortunately, now Google is totally polluted on the topic of Wameleps by the 75 feed-aggregated listings of this post. That’s pretty cool – I don’t imagine there are many words or names left to dominate on the internetz :)

  5. Oh My God! NM, that must be it. But no! I still refuse to believe. How can an s be so tall? I am both delighted and disappointed. Disalighted? Delappointed?



  6. You know about Life, Liberty, and the Purfuit of Happineff, right? Or I can show you microfilms of stuff I’ve worked with, looking something like this, where that bit of script originated.

  7. But see, here’s where it starts getting particularly interesting. Because both those nameless girls on the page you show are two months old, and the boy you mention in the post was four months old. Are we to think that the families really hadn’t named those infants, and called them “the baby” out of some superstitious fear that they might not survive? Until what point of health or end of danger? Or did they mean, possibly, that the infants hadn’t yet been christened, and so hadn’t formally been named, but the family knew perfectly well what the names were, and called them that?

  8. I have to admit, the other reason I’m kind of bummed is that sometimes the Butcher goes by Wemolohtrab and I was already having some ideas about convincing him to name his kid Wamelep, so that we could all shout out things like “Wemolohtrab, Wamelep needs changing!” “Wemolohtrab, get Wamelep out of that tree.”

    NM, that’s a good question. And I don’t know.

  9. Well, you could go through that whole list and see whether all the children under 6 months or something were listed as being nameless. If they were, it may have been census instructions. But if it’s just a few here and there, I don’t know.

  10. I see it as a W at the beginning, not an N. If you compare the first letter to other w’s and n’s on the page, it looks like the rest of the w’s. The last letter/s look like p, f or fs to me, but then you would have Wamelef, Wamelefs, or Wamelep, and well, those aren’t very helpful either.

    I will say I somewhat envy the handwriting of the person who filled that form in. Except, you know, where you can’t make it out.

  11. Except that the initial letter looks like all the capital Ms on the page, except with one loop less. And the final letters are clearly a double s, like the German eszet (ß). So I think “Nameless” is more likely than “Wameless.”

  12. I’m Wameless. Wameless as a man can be. You make a total fool of me. I just wanted you to know.


    That’s a song I haven’t thought about in a million years.

    Damn it, Garth Brooks, am I softening to you after all this time?

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